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Hydrogen-Powered sUAS for Long-Range Reconnaissance Missions

Aurora Flight Sciences' SKIRON-XLE is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell and is expected to deliver flight times of over five hours By Mike Ball / 01 Jul 2024
Hydrogen-Powered sUAS for Long-Range Reconnaissance Missions
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Aurora Flight Sciences is expanding its SKIRON Expeditionary range of sUAS (small unmanned aerial systems) with the addition of a long-endurance variant.

SKIRON-XLE is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell and has been specially designed for long-range reconnaissance missions. While flight testing is still ongoing, SKIRON-XLE is expected to extend flight times to well over five hours.

The SKIRON product line combines the convenience of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) with the longer endurance of a fixed-wing design. The aircraft carries high-resolution EO/IR payloads from Trillium Engineering. Custom payload integration is available, and an optional belly-mount payload space and under-wing payload mounts may be added. With Trillium’s HD55 gimbal, the battery-powered SKIRON-X weighs 49 pounds, while the fuel cell SKIRON-XLE weighs 54 pounds. Either system can be easily transported in a standard truck or SUV, and can be deployed by a two-person crew.

In addition to Trillium payloads and a fuel cell from Intelligent Energy, Aurora’s complete SKIRON-XLE system includes a new, ruggedized ground control station featuring Kutta Technologies’ Unified Ground Control Station (UGCS) software. Aurora uses a customized version of UGCS-Defense, which meets international STANAG 4586 standards as well the US Army’s Interoperability standards. With this Modular Open Systems Approach (MOSA) to software and hardware interoperability, the entire SKIRON-XLE system provides a unique solution for this class of UAS. The long-range system with a 2.4G 10W radio and tracking antenna provides up to 75 km command and control (C2) link range; multiple frequency and output power options are available.

Larry Wirsing, VP of aircraft and product development at Aurora Flight Sciences, commented; “Aurora is excited to extend our SKIRON platform to include a fuel-cell-powered variant that can deliver maximum flight endurance and range. With this new product now in flight testing, we look forward to providing customers such as the U.S. military with an easy-to-deploy solution for long range reconnaissance.”

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